Health Headlines: Is the 'freshman 15' fact or fiction? - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL

Health Headlines: Is the 'freshman 15' fact or fiction?

(Source: WBRC video) (Source: WBRC video)

College Weight Gain and the Myth of the "Freshman 15" - UAB Nutritionist Dr. Beth Kitchin says it's the beginning of the school year and if you're a college freshman, you may be fearful of the "Freshman 15". These are the pounds that threaten to pile on in that transitional year from home to campus. But the "Freshman 15" – an alluring as a headline it may be – is probably an urban legend.  While research studies show that some freshmen gain weight other students stay the same and even lose weight.

Most studies show:

  •  The average weight gain during college students' freshman year is around 2 to 3 pounds - far from the mythical 15! Keep in mind, this average is including students who may have stayed the same or actually lost weight.
  •  Not everyone gains weight. One study showed that about 15 percent of the students lost weight. However, anywhere from 50 percent to 70 percent may gain weight.
  •  Of the students who gain weight, the average seems to be around 4 to 7 pounds. So the "freshman 15" may be more like the "freshman 5".
  •  Two factors that may add pounds are drinking alcohol and not having parents influencing when and how much you eat.

 Avoiding Student Weight Gain:

  •       Compare Calories:  Many campus dining venues offer nutrition information online or at the counter. Pay attention and compare your choices to get a sense of how many calories are in various dining options.
  •       Keep Healthy Snacks in Your Dorm Room or Apartment.  Keep fresh fruit, raw veggies, nuts, and yogurt in the dorm fridge.
  •       Avoid Mindless Eating. Watching TV and studying which is what you should be doing can lead to mindless eating – be aware of this risk!
  •       Stay Active:  whether it's working out at the gym or walking to classes, the more active you are the less weight you will gain.  Avoid taking the campus shuttle service when you can. Use good time management skills to work in gym time – even if it's just 15 minutes. Exercise dates with friends can make it easier and more fun!
  •       Take Advantage of Campus Programs. Universities like UAB often offer healthy eating programs at the rec center or even research studies designed to help students exercise more or maintain a healthy weight.
  •       Weigh Yourself. A study published in 2015 found that college students who were instructed to weigh themselves daily, graph their weight, and not gain weight were less likely to gain weight than the students who were not instructed to weigh themselves. However, not all students should weigh themselves. Anyone prone to being preoccupied with their weight or to disordered eating should not weigh themselves. 
  •       Don't Obsess Over Weight. While avoiding weight gain is a good idea, college is also a time when students can start to feel bad about their bodies.  Perceived peer pressure to be thin can result in disordered eating. So don't let dieting become obsessive.

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